Garnet Manley III stood on the No. 17 tee box at Ivy Hill Golf Club during Wednesday’s Region 4D golf championship and received some news from his father, Jefferson Forest golf coach Garnet Manley Jr.
Another golfer had played the front nine at 2-under-par, Manley Jr. said, so the journey to medalist honors wasn’t going to be a cakewalk.
But Manley III made sure it was.
The JF senior buckled down and birdied his final two holes. His competition faded, and Manley’s strong finish earned him a 6-under 65 and medalist honors as Jefferson Forest posted a runner-up finish to Blacksburg to advance to the Class 4 state tournament.
“It refocused me to make sure I made birdies,” Manley said of that short conversation with his dad. The senior birdied three of his final four holes and had four total birdies on the back nine. He ran away from the field, winning the tourney by nine strokes.
Jefferson Forest narrowly missed out on first-place team honors, finishing one stroke behind the Bruins, who fired a collective 305 to JF’s 306. So Manley will be joined by teammates Jonathan Peterson, Caleb DeBass, John Toney, Conner Kail and Camden Willis at the state tournament, scheduled for Oct. 14 at Williamsburg National Country Club.
E.C. Glass freshman Penn Willman fired a 3-over 74 on Wednesday and was one of three individuals to advance to the state tourney.
Willman’s day didn’t start off too well. His tee shot at the par 4, 375-yard No. 1 went out of bounds, and the freshman ended up with a double bogey.
But he remembered lessons he’s been learning while under instruction at Boonsboro Country Club: Relax, forget the bad hole and focus on the rest of the round.
It worked. Willman responded with an eagle at No. 2, barely missed another eagle putt a few holes later and shot an even-par 36 on the front nine.
“I’d get down on myself,” said Willman, who broke out of a mid-season slump in time for the playoffs. “But that [instruction] is really what helped me in this tournament. After I had that double on 1, I said ‘Forget about it,’ then eagled.”
Glass tied Halifax for fourth overall with a 328. But the Hilltoppers have hope for the future. Their top three golfers — Willman, John Waterworth and Jackson Laughon — are all freshmen. Waterworth fired a 79 on Wednesday, while Laughon recorded an 82.
Willman tied for second overall with Blacksburg’s David Zhang and Halifax’s Willoughby Gasperini. Gasperini and Salem’s Hunter King (77) also advanced to the state championship as individuals.
But it was Manley III who made the most noise Wednesday, barreling away from the field with birdie after birdie.
And he’s playing great golf heading into the state championship at Williamsburg, the same site as last year’s Class 4 battle. Manley finished sixth overall at last year’s state event.
But he’s more focused and determined this season.
“The last couple years at the end of the season, you feel kind of worn out and don’t know where your swing is at,” he said. “It’s about being on top of things when it gets time for the postseason. It’s just feeling good about the swing and your game. I don’t feel like I’m struggling.”
Wednesday’s region championship marked the 52nd event Manley III has played in this year, both high school and junior golf one- and two-day tourneys included. That’s a ton of golf. For perspective, there have been 275 days in 2019, so Manley has spent the bulk of the year on the golf course.
“How are you not tired?” a reporter asked the senior Wednesday.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “It feels like it’s routine at this point.”
As a team, though, JF wasn’t its normal self on Wednesday. Jonathan Peterson fired an 80, Caleb DeBass an 84. Both golfers typically shoot in the 70s. But the Cavaliers received stronger-than-normal play from the bottom of the lineup with Conner Kail’s 80.
“We felt like we were out of [competition] the whole day,” Manley said of his team. “But we got back in it and had a chance to win.”
The Cavs will travel to Williamsburg, Manley III said, for practice rounds between now and Oct. 14.
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.